Though Waxahatchee has spanned self-recorded solo material, reflective folk-rock, and more raucous, full-band indie rock, the project has remained intensely personal in nature. Making her debut with the breakup-inspired American Weekend in 2012, songwriter Katie Crutchfield continued to amplify her knack for hooks and engaging melodies through her John Agnello-co-produced fourth LP, 2017's Out in the Storm. A year later, she reversed course with the spare Great Thunder EP, which revisited material from her side duo with Keith Spencer from Swearin', while 2020's Saint Cloud settled into a more reflective folk-rock.
Named after the lake not far from her parents' house in Alabama, Waxahatchee began as a solo project for musician Katie Crutchfield in 2011. That year, the moniker first appeared on a split cassette with Chris Calvin. Crutchfield had been writing songs since her early teens and played for a while with her twin sister, Allison, in the scrappy punk outfit P.S. Eliot. That group disbanded around the time of a serious breakup, and Crutchfield stole away to her parents' country home, where she recorded the songs that would become Waxahatchee's lo-fi debut full-length, 2012's American Weekend. The confessional songs on the project's debut gained Waxahatchee more exposure, and Crutchfield began performing in and around Philadelphia, where she had moved.
Around that time, she also formed the lo-fi duo Great Thunder with Keith Spencer from her sister's band Swearin'. They released the LP Sounds of Great Thunder in 2012, and when Crutchfield assembled a backing band for Waxahatchee live shows, he signed on as drummer. In March 2013, her still intimate but more expansive sophomore album, Cerulean Salt, was released to largely positive critical reviews. She was joined on the album by Spencer, Kyle Gilbride, Radiator Hospital's Sam Cook-Parrott, and her sister. Great Thunder released the Strange Kicks EP and Groovy Kinda Love LP later in 2013, and Waxahatchee toured internationally for the next year, gaining fans and listeners as her profile grew.
In early 2015, Waxahatchee signed with Merge Records for the U.S. release of their third LP, Ivy Tripp. Continuing a trend toward a fuller, more aggressive sound, the album saw release in April of that year and marked her debut on the Billboard 200. Joined in the studio by producer John Agnello, Allison Crutchfield, bassist Katherine Simonetti, and drummer Ashley Arnwine, among others, she followed it in 2017 with the defiant Out in the Storm, about overcoming a toxic relationship. Her next release covered a selection of Great Thunder tracks, which she re-recorded with producer Brad Cook. Stripping down arrangements to mostly piano, the six-track Great Thunder EP arrived via Merge in 2018. Returning to the studio with Cook, she recorded her more country-rock-minded fifth long-player with Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox of Bonny Doon, Bonny Light Horseman's Josh Kaufman, and Elvis Perkins in Dearland's Nick Kinsey as her backing band. The resulting Saint Cloud saw release in March 2020. ~ Marcy Donelson & Fred Thomas